Radjaïdjah Blog

vendredi 22 mai 2020

Kalsarikänni Times or A Path to A Societal Apax

During these challenging C19 times, people stay at home and, as in The Little Prince, drink to forget. Now, because they are at home, no need do dress formally, or better, no need to dress at all.

The Finnish language has a word for that: Kalsarikänni (it describes the specific Scandinavian behavior consisting in absorbing alcoholic beverages in order to of get drunk at home in underwear).

Now, this word is not immediatly translatable, as its meaning is unique to the Finnish language. Any direct linguistic transposition would be lost in translation.

A gamified way to discover such words and expressions is the Sticky Terms application by Philipp Stollenmayer.

Tenants of the weak Sapir-Whorf hypothesis could even argue that untranslatable words from a language embody its spirit.

Now, let's see another facet. What is the common feature shared among the Hebrew words Gevina (cheese), Zechuchith (glass), and Sfarad (Spanish)?

These words appear exactly once in the Tanach (the Bible, to simplify), hence they are difficult to translate.

In linguistics, words appearing with only one occurrence within a corpus (such as the Old Testament, or the literary writings from an author) are called apax legomenon (from ancient Greek άπαξ λεγόμενον, "told once").

Because of its unicity, an apax is somehow a separation, a cut within a text. There is a before, and an after. Like the inverted nuns (׆) in the Torah (Numbers 10:35–36).

The musicologist Wladimir Jankelevitch extends this notion of linguistic apax (single occurence of a peculiar term within a literary corpus) or semantic apax (unique meaning of a term within a peculiar context) to the one of existential apax.

The original essence of this concept is that every moment in a life is an apax. It is a frame, unique, and therefore needs to be enjoyed and cherished.

A variation of the existential apax is that when a once-in-a-lifetime event occurs, it might lead to internal realization and dramatic changes in life. For example, for an individual, the emergence of a disease such as cancer can lead to definitive priority shifting.

But one could also imagine a collective version.

Despite all negative consequences, Covid-19 might arise as a societal apax.